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Former hostage, soccer chaplain, a Vatican version of a Navy SEAL: Meet the over-80s among the new cardinals

Pope Francis leads a mass for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 08/30/22

These four new cardinals wear the red hat after long lives in unique service to the Church.

Three 80-year-old bishops-emeritus and two priests of the same age were called on May 29, 2022, by Pope Francis to join the Sacred College on August 27, 2022, in addition to 16 cardinal electors. We profiled the electors here, and now give you an overview of the new cardinals who are already past the age limit to vote in a conclave.

On June 16, the resignation of Belgian Bishop Luc Van Looy, bishop emeritus of Ghent, who has been criticized for his handling of abuse cases in his Salesian congregation and diocese, reduced the number of these non-electing cardinals to four.

I.MEDIA presents the careers of these personalities chosen by the pope because of their experience and expertise on sometimes sensitive issues.

Gianfranco Ghirlanda, the canonist for difficult missions

The Jesuit canonist, born in Rome on July 5, 1942, has been a recognized expert for several decades, and the Vatican has often called on his services, notably for the restructuring of the Legionaries of Christ and the drafting of the Apostolic Constitution Prædicate Evangelium. His ability to be sent into a wide range of special situations has some describing him as the Vatican version of a Navy SEAL.

After joining the Society of Jesus in 1966, Father Ghirlanda was ordained a priest in 1973. His long career as a university professor began in 1975, and over the decades he has placed his expertise at the service of many institutions of the Holy See. Among the bodies that have called on his services are the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, the Court of Appeals of Vatican City State, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, of which he has been a member since 2018.

As an expert, and therefore without the right to vote, he participated in the 1994 Synod on Consecrated Life and in the 2001 Synod on Bishops, for which Cardinal Bergoglio was the Deputy General Relator, replacing Cardinal Egan who was unable to leave New York because of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

As rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University from 2004 to 2010, Father Ghirlanda was also involved in a number of sensitive issues, including the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, promulgated by Benedict XVI in 2009 to allow for the creation of specific ordinariates for Anglicans who had joined Rome.

In 2010, he participated in the investigation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement after the revelations of abuses committed by their founder, Marcial Maciel Degollado, and then became Pontifical Assistant to the Legionaries of Christ to oversee the rewriting of that congregation’s statutes. He was also called upon for canonical matters concerning the association of Memores Domini, the consecrated laity linked to the Communion and Liberation movement.

Finally, the pope has called this specialist on St. Ignatius of Loyola to work on two essential and very complex projects of his pontificate: the reform of the Constitutional Charter of the Order of Malta, and the Apostolic Constitution Prædicate Evangelium. He will certainly have an important role in the August 29-30 assembly, during which the cardinals will be asked to reflect on the Constitution. 

Asked by Vatican media about his cardinalate, which in his case is not linked to an episcopate, Fr. Ghirlanda explained that he does not see it as an honor but as a responsibility for future missions, despite his 80 years: “It’s an act that a Jesuit fully embraces in obedience. We do not see it as an enrichment but as a request from the pope for an even greater service than that which has been given up to now,” he said.

Bishop Fortunato Frezza: An eclectic path between Scripture, soccer, and the Synod

Bishop Fortunato Frezza, born on February 6, 1942, was the last priest ordained in 1966 for the small diocese of Bagnoregio before it merged with that of Viterbo 20 years later. While serving as parish priest for the village of Sipicciano from 1971 to 1984, Fr. Frezza taught Scripture in several institutions, including the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He worked for the General Secretariat of the Synod starting in 1983, becoming undersecretary of that body from 1997 to 2014. He thus accompanied the evolution of the Synod under three pontificates: those of John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and finally Francis.

In 2013, he became a canon of St. Peter’s Basilica and camerlengus of the Chapter in 2022. He has also been master of ceremonies of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre since 2015. After the announcement of his cardinalate, despite his age of 80, he was ordained a bishop in St. Peter’s in the presence of, among others, Cardinal Baldisseri, whose assistant he had been in the General Secretariat of the Synod. 

Among the eclectic passions of the new cardinal: Gregorian chant and St. Angela of Foligno, but also soccer. A former goalkeeper, Fortunato Frezza was even the chaplain of AS Roma, one of the two big clubs in Rome, a rival of Lazio, from 1986 to 2011. Bishop Frezza accompanied the team during the 2000-2001 season, which led them to win the Italian championship, with the French world champion Vincent Candela, and of course the star of Italian soccer, Francesco Totti.

Archbishop Arrigo Miglio, a bishop at the service of workers, from Valle d’Aosta to Sardinia

Archbishop Arrigo Miglio, who was Archbishop of Cagliari from 2012 to 2019, notably welcomed Pope Francis to the Sardinian capital on September 22, 2013. This pilgrimage, which was one of the first trips of the pope to Italy, had a special historical meaning for the Argentine pope: It was in fact Sardinian sailors who, in the 16th century, inspired by their patron saint Our Lady of Bonaria, gave its name to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires.

Born on July 18, 1942, near Ivrea, in a territory that joins the French-speaking Valle d’Aosta and the Turin metropolitan area, Arrigo Miglio was ordained a priest in 1967 for his diocese, where he held various positions in parishes and then served as Vicar General.

As a priest, he directed several institutions, including the Gino-Pistoni Alpine House, named after a Resistance fighter, in Gressoney-Saint-Jean, a peculiar municipality since it is a German-speaking enclave; despite its name with a French connotation, the language spoken by the inhabitants is Greschòneytitsch, a dialect derived from German. 

Later, while serving as national chaplain of the Scouts and Guides of Italy, he was appointed in 1992 by John Paul II as bishop of Iglesias, a diocese in Sardinia, where he worked in particular for the good of coal mine workers. He then returned to his home diocese, becoming bishop of Ivrea from 1999 to 2012, during which time he was responsible for social issues within the Italian episcopate. Benedict XVI then appointed him Archbishop of Cagliari in 2012, an office from which he retired three years ago.

The Sardinian capital is not traditionally considered a cardinal’s see, but two of his recent predecessors were also elevated to the purple: Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio was appointed Archbishop of Cagliari in 1969, shortly after being integrated into the Sacred College by Paul VI; in addition, Cardinal Giovanni Canestri, created a cardinal as Archbishop of Genoa in 1988, had previously served as Archbishop of Cagliari for three years. 

Archbishop Jorge Jiménez Carvajal, a former FARC hostage in Colombia

Born on March 29, 1942, in Bucaramanga, Colombia, the Archbishop Emeritus of Cartagena is a religious of the Company of Jesus and Mary, a society of apostolic life founded by the Frenchman St. John Eudes in 1643. After training in the social sciences in Chile, the Eudist religious was ordained a priest in 1967 and served as a seminary formator and disseminator of social doctrine within the Colombian Episcopal Conference in the 1970s. 

In 1979, he became director of studies at the theological-pastoral institute of the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM) in Medellín for nine years, and taught in Louvain (Belgium), Madrid (Spain) and Verona (Italy) for the preparation of missionaries sent to Latin America. In 1988, he became the Eudist provincial for Colombia, also assuming the position of secretary general of the Latin American Confederation of Religious, upon appointment by John Paul II.

In 1992, the Polish pope appointed him Bishop of Zipaquirà, a position he held concurrently with that of general secretary of CELAM from 1995 to 1999 and finally president of the same organization from 1999 to 2003. In this capacity he participated in the 2001 Synod on Bishops, for which Cardinal Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, was the Deputy General Relator. 

In 2002 — the year in which the French-Colombian senator Ingrid Betancourt was kidnapped — he was taken hostage by FARC for a week. During the general audience on Wednesday, November 13, 2002, John Paul II called for his release, which was finally achieved through a military operation. 

In 2005, after a few months as coadjutor, he became Archbishop of Cartagena, the large port in northern Colombia on the Caribbean coast, where a large part of the population is of African origin. By personal appointment of Benedict XVI, he participated in the 2009 Synod on Africa held at the Vatican.

His episcopate in Cartagena was marked by the visit of Pope Francis on September 10, 2017, during which the pontiff had, among other things, inaugurated a home for the homeless and celebrated a Mass in the port area. Bishop Jiménez Carvajal, during the thanksgiving at the end of the Mass, was strongly emotional and showed deep connection with the first Latin American pope.

Archbishop Jiménez Carvajal left his position as Archbishop of Cartagena in 2021, at the age of 79, after 29 years as bishop. 

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